Aquatic Plant Forum banner
1 - 6 of 6 Posts

1,717 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For this week's topic, I will try to move away from Nature Aquarium style and concentrate on the less globally popular yet still beautiful Dutch aquarium style.

The Dutch were among the first to become interested in planted aquariums, growing plants successfully since at least the 1940s. The NBAT, the Dutch Aquarium Society, began to host annual competitions with certain guidelines on how tanks were supposed to look like. With the implementation of a set of rules, contestants began to style their tanks accordingly. A style began to take shape.

The hallmark of this style is the tight, manicured look of the bunch plants. Plants are neatly organized into rows which gain height from front to back. Ideally, up to three kinds of plants are used per foot of the aquarium so a four foot tank (48 inches) should ideally have no more than twelve species. Stem plants are carefully chosen for their growth rates as well so as to keep the shape of the 'streets' as low maintenance as possible --hence the use of lobelia and Saururus cernuus is very popular.

Plants should be organized so as to provide maximum contrast in color and leaf shape/size with their neighbors. Colors can include light green, dark greens, browns, reds, pinks, and purples. Small leaved Hemianthus micranthemoides vs large leaved sword plants, round Bacopa caroliniana leaves vs the slender leaves of Ammania gracilis, etc. These neatly organized plants should be arranged and built around the focal point(s) of the tank. Aquariums should have no more than two focal points, usually placed 1/3rd or 2/3rds the length of the tank (rule of thirds).

Some important considerations are that features in the back of the tank should never catch the eye (no red plants in the back) so as to provide more depth. Also, the tank is usually viewable only from one side. The back wall and sides should be concealed and look as natural as possible, usually with the use of mosses and java fern. They created the first moss walls. Another consideration is that the variety of decoration used should be as minimal as possible, similar to what Amano advocates. Don't use various kinds of rocks or various kinds of wood in a tank --stick to one kind only.

Typical plant choices:
Rotala indica
Lobelia cardinalis
Limnophila aquatica
Bacopa caroliniana
Alternanthera reineckii
Java moss
Ammania gracilis
Hygrophila corymbosa v stricta
Hygrophila difformis
Saururus cernuus
Hydrocotyle leucocephala
Didiplis diandra
Rotala macrandra
Vallisneria sp
Echinodorus 'Ozelot'

Fish play a very important part in this style as well. The bottom, middle, and top zones of a tank should be filled with fish to make each area interesting to the viewer. All fish species should be different in shape, color, and size, but the least number of species possible should be used to fill all niches in the tank (so no blue rams in a tank with kribensis, or silver hatchetfish with marbled hatchetfish, etc). A group of larger fish such as angelfish or congo tetras is always appreciated. Schools must be as large as possible.

The appearance of the aquarium in a living room was also critical, usually having the aquarium as being the main piece of decoration. Custom cabinetry incorporating the aquarium into the wall is very popular due to the small size of the rooms. A metal stand or any hardware showing in the living room would be unthinkable.

Lastly, typical technical specs of a Dutch Aquarium:
Tank sizes range from 90 gallons to 300 gallons
Lighting: 1.8 wpg to 2.0 wpg, kelvin ratings are very low (5000k seems to be the norm)
Nitrate tends to be above 10 ppm
Phosphates tend to be low (near zero)
Plant species choice ranges from 12-19
Fish species selection ranges from 5-7

Finally, the examples...

By Th. Koster (3rd place in NBAT 2002):

By P.J.W. Engelen (4th place in NBAT 2002):

By W.J. Zaal (2nd place in NBAT 2001):

By R. Bottenberg (2003):

By W. Trumm:

Frode Roe's aquaria:

Discussion question #1:

It is remarkably hard to find any good examples of Dutch aquariums on the internet. In fact, the best examples I have seen have come from older books published in the early-mid 1990s. Does any board member maintain a so called "Dutch Aquarium?" Has anybody maintained one in the past? Would that person be able to post any pictures of his or her setup for all of us to see?

Discussion question #2:

Why has this style failed to become widely popular in comparison to the Nature Aquarium style?

Anything anyone could share about his or her opinions on these tanks, sharing of techniques I didn't discuss in the above, etc would be greatly appreciated.


257 Posts
tsunami said:
Why has this style failed to become widely popular in comparison to the Nature Aquarium style?
As for other sites, I've poked around quite a bit, bought a book on translating Dutch (I've taken 5 years of German at one time didn't think it would be too bad), and got absolutely nowhere :) You didn't include Frode Roe's classic tank, you can find his site via google, that is one I know of but he links to us! I'm not sure these sites exist, as the Dutch have been doing it for _years_ and I think the average Dutch grower is much older and less net-inclined than the average American (I would hazard a guess most of us are 20-35)...

As for why its not popular, well I think its a matter of "press". There are more examples of Japanese style around, there isn't a Dutch Amano that I know of. Also, Dutch tanks are all wallet busters, usually 120+ gallons, the tanks are also judged on how it fits into a room, etc, almost all are custom furniture, etc... "Centerpiece" of a room.. I think most of us have more smaller tanks as opposed a very large one... I do at least :)


4,116 Posts
It's truly beyond me why the Dutch style is not more popular. I personally find Dutch tanks cheesy, too ordered, and stuffed. As such I would say they'd have a lot of followers exactly because of this tacky, too sweet, look. Be it aquariums, tv, pictures... there is a lot of folk that go for the kitschy look.

The above is only my opinion I'm not trying to start a heated discussion here.

But there is something else - as I mentioned to Carlos just now I also believe that the plants in the Dutch tanks are probably extremely healthy. I recall Carlos talking about the stringent rules the Dutch aquatic plant contests have.


257 Posts
Raul-7 said:
With all the high maintenance work..I think Dutch tanks are too strict in terms of rules! People tend to want to enjoy this hobby, not make it another chore...:wink:
Hey Hey :D !

I think of it like this... I'm a big bluegrass fan, its a very old music style, really hasn't changed that much since the 3 finger banjo techniques emerged in the 50s... its all about doing the best you can with a limited palette. People think tanks like this lack creativity, I think thats as far from the truth as one can get... its all about being creative with a limited number of options -- its much harder (and rewarding) to pull off something "fresh" and noticable...

We should do an aquascaping contest with one plant, maybe Java moss of something easy... the emphasis shifts from loud plants to proper rock and driftwood placement and structure, I think it would help all of us out. We would all need to be a little more creative despite having fewer options...

1 - 6 of 6 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.